مقلوبة (Maqluba). Maqluba is a traditional Arabic meal. It is a big family meal that is served off a large platter. I made my maqluba recipe with chicken, but maqluba is often made with lamb when special guests are coming over for dinner.
Maqluba in Arabic: مقلوبة
How to pronounce maqluba: mak-looo-beh
My Jordanian Maqluba Recipe is:
- A popular Arabic meal
- Jordanian style
- Perfect for large families
WHAT IS MAQLUBA?
Maqluba is a popular Middle Eastern recipe. It is made in a huge pot and layered with chicken, fried vegetables, rice, and spices. After it is done cooking, it is flipped upside down onto a big serving platter. It is topped with fried pine nuts.
Maqluba literally means "upside down." This dish can be a little tricky, and most families can't tell you the recipe because things are measured "with the eyes." But, I thought I'd try to share the recipe I make with measurements I learned from my mother in law!
WHERE IS MAQLOOBA FROM?
Maqluba is a popular recipe from the Levant region: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine.
Maqluba originated in Palestine. But today, is popular in many regions of the Middle East, each with their own version of maqluba.
WHAT SPICES ARE USED IN MAQLUBA?
Every woman makes her maqluba a little bit different! The way I learned maqluba was using goya adobo, 7 spices, whole cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and bay leaves, salt, pepper, and stock for more flavor.
TIPS FOR MAKING THE BEST JORDANIAN MAQLUBA RECIPE
MAKE SURE TO CLEAN YOUR CHICKENS WELL. Washing the chickens with a mixture of lemon, vinegar, salt and water is a standard for Middle Eastern chicken recipes.
SOAK THE RICE. Soak the rice in warm water while you prepare the other ingredients.
DRAIN FRIED VEGETABLES ON PAPER TOWELS. If you don't drain excess liquid off, you could end up with soggy oily maqluba.
FRY VEGETABLES AND MAKE THE CHICKEN BROTH AT THE SAME TIME. Instead of waiting for the vegetables to cook, then making the broth, you can save time by doing both at the same time.
USE FRESH QUALITY SPICES. Fresh spices are a must in any flavorful Middle Eastern recipe. If you live in the states, you can find pretty good ingredients at a local Arabic shop. We usually have a relative bring back fresh spices from Jordan!
OTHER MIDDLE EASTERN RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
- Galayet Bandora
- Arabic Chopped Salad
- Shorbat Adas (Arabic Red Lentil Soup)
- Arabic Stuffed Grape Leaves
Frequently asked questions about how to make Arabic Maqluba.
WHY IS MAQLUBA FLIPPED?
Maqluba is flipped because when you make maqluba, you layer the ingredients starting at the bottom. So when it is done cooking and you flip it, those perfectly cooked ingredients end up on top.
WHAT DOES MAQLUBA MEAN IN ARABIC?
Maqluba in Arabic literally translates to upside down.
WHAT IS 7 SPICES?
7 spices is a fragrant mixture of ground black pepper, paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and ground cinnamon. I wouldn't try mixing this yourself though, because I'm not sure the ratios they use.
We get our mix from Jordan. When you buy yours at the Arabic store make sure it is high quality. Quality spices make a HUGE different in the flavor of your maqluba.
WHAT ARE MAGGI CUBES?
Maggi cubes are just vegetable stock cubes.
WHAT ARE VERMICELLE NOODLES?
Vermicelle noodles are a thin form of rice noodles. You can find them in any Arabic market. For the recipe, you will use ¾ of a 1 pound bag.
HOW DO I MAKE MAQLUBA HEALTHIER?
Maqluba is a very heavy meal made with a lot of white rice and fried veggies. There are 2 simple swaps to make maqluba much healthier.
- Substitute the white rice for brown rice or freekeh
- Steam (pressure cook) then broil on high veggies instead of frying
For a healthy maqluba, read the recipe notes and the substitution suggestions in the recipe card below.
HOW TO MAKE MAQLUBA THE JORDANIAN WAY
Step 1: Clean your chickens
First you will "clean" the chicken. This is done by soaking the chicken pieces in a bowl of water with lemon juice, salt, and vinegar.
How to clean the chickens:
In a very large bowl, add the 2 halal chickens that have been cut into 6 pieces each. Generously sprinkle salt over them. Squeeze 2 lemons over the chickens and put the lemon peel in the bowl too. Add about ¼ cup plain white vinegar. Finally, cover the chickens with warm water.
Let the chicken sit while you prepare your other ingredients.
Step 2: Soak the Rice and Salt Eggplant
Add the 3 ½ cups basmati rice to another large bowl. Sprinkle the rice with salt, (about 1 teaspoon). Pour hot water over the rice to cover it completely.
Let the rice rest until you are ready to use it.
How to prepare the vegetables for your Maqluba:
Chop your vegetables.
- Cut the head of cauliflower into bite sized pieces.
- Slice the eggplant into ¼ inch slices.
Place the eggplant onto another dinner plate lined with paper towels. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt.
Step 3: Frying the vegetables for Maqluba
First, heat 2 cast iron skillets with a high heat cooking oil. I like to use 2 because it goes a lot faster, but 1 will work just fine if that's all you have.
Next, line a couple of large dinner plates with paper towels. The paper towels will help to soak up the excess oil from the fried vegetables.
While the eggplant sits, fry the cauliflower pieces. Fry the cauliflower until they are nicely golden brown on all sides. Transfer golden pieces of cauliflower onto the paper towel lined plate as they finish cooking.
You can see the eggplant has a lot of water on top now. Drawing out the water helps to improve the texture of the eggplant after cooking.
Use another dry paper towel to dab all of the excess water off the eggplant.
Fry the eggplant on both sides in the oil until it is golden brown.
Step 4: Cook the Chicken & Make the Maqluba Broth
How to cook chicken for maqluba
First, in a very large stock pan, sauté the 1 medium diced onion in about 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee over medium heat. Stir the onions until they are soft and translucent.
While the onions cook, drain the water from the bowl of chickens and discard the lemon peels. Rinse the chicken until the water runs clear.
Once the onions have finished cooking, add the rinsed chickens, skin side down.
Cover with ~3-4 cups of water.
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons goya adobo powder across, 1 ½ teaspoons 7 spices, salt, pepper, 1 packet of sazon goya, and 2 cubes of maggi. Add 2 whole cinnamon sticks, 6 whole cloves, 5 crushed cardamom pods, and 3 whole bay leaves.
Cover the pot and cook this on high for 15 minutes
Remove the lid and add the same amount of water (3-4 cups) and spices as before: 2 teaspoons goya adobo powder across, 1 ½ teaspoons 7 spices, salt, pepper, 1 packet of sazon goya, and 2 cubes of maggi.
Reduce heat to medium. Cover the pot and for another 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and transfer the chicken pieces to a large plate. Drain the broth into a large bowl through a fine mesh strainer.
Step 5: Toast the vermicelle noodles and prepare the rice mixture
Use one of the warm cast iron skillets from frying the vegetables to toast your vermicelle noodles. Add ¾ package of the noodles to the warm cast iron pan.
Stir the noodles gently with a wooden spoon the entire time they are in the pan. Do not leave them unattended because they can burn very quickly!
Drain all the water from the rice and sprinkle ~1 teaspoon of adobo goya across it.
Add the toasted vermicelle noodles.
Gently toss the soaked rice with the toasted vermicelle noodles so that they are evenly combined.
Step 6: Layer your Maqluba & Cook
How to layer your maqluba for cooking:
You will be layering your prepared fried vegetables and rice mixture on top of the chicken (yes the same pot you cooked the chicken in!).
Add the chickens to the bottom of the pot, skin side down.
Layer the biggest pieces of eggplant and cauliflower across the top of the chicken.
Add ¾ of the rice mixture.
Make sure not to press anything down because you want air pockets.
Add the remaining eggplant and cauliflower. Top it with the remaining rice mixture.
Add the broth back into the pot.
The broth should sit about 1 inch under the rice and vegetable mixture. If is is lower than that, add more water until it 1 inch under the rice.
How to cook maqluba
Turn the heat on high until you hear the water boiling. Fluff the rice a little bit, then cover with a lid.
Reduce the heat to low.
Cook approximately 2 hours.
You can tell when it is done either when you no longer hear the water bubbling, or by lifting the rice from the side of the pot to see if there is water left in the pan.
If there is water left it is not done! You don't want water in your Maqluba.
Once it is done, turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes.
What to serve your maqluba with:
Maqluba is traditionally served with a chopped cucumber tomato salad. Some people like to also serve it with plain yogurt.
HOW DO YOU FLIP A MAQLUBA?
Place a towel on the table where you will be serving. The pan gets VERY hot so a towel helps protect your table! Place a large serving pan on top of the Maqluba pot as if you were replacing the lid.
Quickly flip the pan upside down holding the bottom of the pot and the serving platter. You will probably want to ask someone strong to do this! Tap the top and sides of the pot to loosen up all the pieces.
Remove the pan and watch your Maqluba be revealed! Sprinkle pine nuts across the top and serve with the salad.
How to serve your chicken Maqluba
Serve warm maqluba on a large platter topped with toasted pine nuts. Maqluba is a communal meal, so place it in the center of the table so everyone can gather around and keep helping themselves to seconds and thirds!
Side dishes you will serve are the chopped Arabic salad and plain yogurt.
If you make this recipe and loved it, please be sure to tag your photo #thehintofrosemary and leave me a rating in the recipe card!
The Best Jordanian Maqluba (مقلوبة)
- 2 cast iron skillets for frying
For the Maqluba:
- 2 halal chickens, cut into 6 pieces each
- vinegar, salt, & 2 lemons to soak the chickens in
- 3 ½ cups basmati rice sub wheat rice or freekeh
- salt & hot water to soak the rice in
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 large cauliflower
- Vegetable oil for frying
- ¾ bag of vermicelli noodles (1 pound bag, so ~.75 pound of the noodles)
For the maqluba broth:
- 2 tablespoon oil or ghee
- 1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
- 6 tsp goya adobo all purpose seasoning
- 3 teaspoon 7 spices see notes
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 packets sazon goya
- 4 cubes maggi (vegetable stock cube)
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks
- 6 whole cloves
- 5 cardamom pods, crushed
- 3 bay leaves
- 6-8 cups water
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted can sub. slivered almonds
- Plain yogurt
For the maqluba salad:
- 1 lg cucumber
- 4 vine tomatoes
- 1 bunch parsley
- 2 lemons, juiced
For the Maqluba:
Step 1: wash and soak chickens
- In a large bowl, add the chicken pieces, vinegar, salt, and lemons. Fill with water to completely cover the chicken. Set this aside while you prepare your other ingredients.
Step 2: soak rice & salt the eggplant
- In another bowl, add the rice. Sprinkle salt across the top. Fill the bowl with hot water to completely cover the rice. Set this aside.
- Slice the eggplant into disks ~ ¼ or ½ inch thick. Lay the eggplant slices on plates lined with paper towels. Sprinkle salt across the tops of the eggplant. Let this sit for a few minutes.
Step 3: fry vegetables
- Heat 2 large iron skillets with ~1 inch of vegetable oil or another high heat cooking oil. I usually cook over medium heat for this part. (See below for a healthy "fried" maqluba vegetable alternative.)
- Slice the cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Drop the cauliflower into the heated oil and fry the pieces until they are completely golden brown on all sides. Place the cauliflower on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.
- Pat the eggplant dry. Fry both sides of the eggplant until it is completely golden brown. Place the eggplant on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. Turn the heat down to low on one of the cast iron skillets. Turn the heat off for the other one.
Step 4: make chicken broth
- It is best to get the chicken broth started while the vegetables are frying.Heat your large stockpot with ~2 tablespoons of cooking oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Sprinkle the onion with 1 teaspoon of goya adobo powder.
- Rinse and drain the chickens. Place each piece of chicken into the large pot on top of the onions skin side down. Add water to almost cover the chicken (this is ~3-4 cups of water). Sprinkle 2 teaspoons goya adobo powder across, 1 ½ teaspoons 7 spices, salt, pepper, 1 packet of sazon goya, and 2 cubes of maggi. Add 2 whole cinnamon sticks, 6 whole cloves, 5 crushed cardamom pods, and 3 bay leaves.Cover the pot and cook this on high for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, add 3-4 more cups of water, 2 teaspoons goya adobo powder, 1 teaspoon 7 spices, salt, pepper, 1 packet of sazon goya, and 2 cubes of maggi (yes the same as the first time!). Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium, and cook another 15 minutes.
Step 5: prepare the rice with the toasted vermicelli noodles
- Meanwhile, in the still warm iron skillet, toast the vermicelle noodles until they are golden brown. Make sure to stir them the entire time because they brown very quickly!
- Drain the water from the rice. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of goya adobo across the rice. Add the toasted vermicelle noodles. Toss the noodles and the rice together in the rice bowl until combined.
Step 6: assemble maqluba
- Turn off the heat and remove the stock pot from the stove. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside on a large plate.Drain the broth (water mixture) out into a large bowl through a fine mesh strainer.
- Place the pan back on the stove. Time to layer your Maqluba for cooking! First, add the chicken pieces, skin facing the bottom of the pan.Layer the biggest pieces of eggplant and cauliflower across the top of the chicken. Add ¾ of the rice/toasted vermicelli mixture. Make sure not to press anything down because you want air pockets. Add the remaining eggplant and cauliflower. Add the remaining rice mixture. Add the broth back into the pot. The broth should sit about 1 inch under the rice and vegetable mixture. If is is lower than that, add more water until it 1 inch under the rice.
Step 7: cook maqluba
- Turn the heat on high until you hear the water boiling. Fluff the rice a little bit, cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to low. Cook ~2 hours. You can tell when it is done either when you no longer hear the water bubbling, or by lifting the rice from the side of the pot to see if there is water left in the pan. If there is water left it is not done! You don't want any water in your Maqluba.
- Once it is done, turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for ~5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your Maqluba Salad
For the maqluba salad:
- Slice the cucumbers and tomatoes into very tiny pieces (kind of like salsa). Chop the parsley. Add all to a bowl and toss them together with the juice of a lemon.
- Toast the pine nuts in some oil.
How to serve your Maqluba:
- Place a towel on the table where you will be serving. The pan gets VERY hot so a towel helps protect your table! Place a large serving pan on top of the Maqluba pot as if you were replacing the lid.
- Quickly flip the pan upside down holding the bottom of the pot and the serving platter. (you will probably want to ask someone strong to do this). Tap the top and sides of the pot to loosen up all the pieces.
- Remove the pan and watch your Maqluba be revealed! Sprinkle toasted pine nuts across the top and serve with the chopped salad and plain yogurt.
- Replace the white rice with brown rice
- Omit or reduce the toasted vermicelli noodles
- Steam (pressure cook) and then broil the veggies for soft crispy veggies that are not fried.
Try making my favorite Arabic soup next!